14 April 2013
Adrian Scicluna in conversation with independent curator & critic Sara Raza
1) As a Maltese artist your artworks have often been engaged with themes pertaining to geography and belonging, how have you explored these ideas to your current practice, which is largely influenced by your time spent in London?
During my full time studies for my MA in London I developed a less stable sense of belonging due to the fact that I was living in London but I simultaneously also had a life in Malta, connecting these worlds through the digital representation of online optical technology. My Interest in dislocation and longing grew. This spatial experience has totally influenced my understanding of what a landscape means to me. Geographically places are perceived closer on Skype. This perception breaks down when a need or desire to interact physically with people within other space is denied. In my current practice disparate places are brought in proximity to each other forming new spaces, new landscapes. A recurring theme is to place people from different contexts awkwardly within the same space or persons depicted traversing alternative spaces. Distant places compress and expand, as they are merged together and fragment into an alternative less stable form of landscape.
2) Your practice has explored many mediums from sculpture and installation to new technologies and now collage painting, how is this medium allowing you to express your current concerns as an artist?
My interest in notions of presence, physicality, tactility, and materiality within our digital era feeds into my current practice. As in my use of time-based media I explore what technology suggests about human desires within contemporary societies. It takes a form of narrative that is multi-layered. I take photographs of places and people and download images of places I have visited online. I collage these together and digitally manipulate them. I then transfer the imagery onto canvas giving the imagery a tactile form, and continue to form a dialogue with the process as I paint an alternative landscape. My interest in data moshing, fragmentation, compression and expansion of space, feed into expressing interaction with the landscape. Focus is placed on a more fluid understanding of being and place.
3) A sense of melancholy is present within your works, is this intentional?
I form narratives around personal experiences or experiences of other people that capture my attention. Tension is created when disparate places or people that are geographically distant from each other are placed into the same space but not without a sense of possibility. Sometimes these are perceived as melancholic or with melancholic undertones, but viewers have frequently told me that they see humor, positivity, peacefulness and mystery within works. Sometimes my intentions are quite direct other times I prefer to play within a middle ground. In the case of the former it's a strong emotion that I feel I need to express. I find the latter quite interesting, as people – including myself - perceive the work differently at different times.
4) What have been the main theoretical underpinnings in your practice?
Some of the references but not exclusively include Paul Virillio’s writing on the affects of optical lens technology on the way we see the world. I investigate the relevance of Umberto Eco’s examples on hyper-reality in relation to today’s technology – desires of the fake in the physical world seen through desires brought about by visual online communication. I expand on notions of psycho-geography into what I argue as psycho-spatiality. Emotions and thoughts are stimulated not only as we go from one place to another physically, but also as we traverse through borderless fluid spaces with the aid of technology. I play with notions of proximity and distance, absence and presence, being and place in vacant realities but very real in consequence and possibility is at the core of my work.
5) In your previous works you explored the interface between virtual and actual human interaction, was this a critique or an appraisal of globalisation?
I prefer the middle ground with critical distance as its more playful. There are arguments in favour and against globalisation. More often than not there is a tension in my work, as soon as possible answers appear new questions pop up.
Sara is an independent curator, writer and co-editor of ArtAsiaPacific magazine (West and Central Asia) and consultant editor for Ibraaz a non-profit research platform on the MENA region. In 2011 she was approached to head the curatorial and educational programmes at Alaan Artspace Riyadh’s first contemporary artspace, which launched in October 2012 with the first curated exhibition SoftPower. She is also an adjunct associate curator at Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah and an associate curator for the Artist’s Pension Trust’s London office. Since 2010 she is a visiting lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Her research interests are in post-Soviet contemporary art from Central Asia and the Caucasus and the borders of the Middle East and Indian Sub-Continent, exploring new Silk Road aesthetics in relation to globalisation and cultural cartography. She is a former Tate Modern curator. She is a current PhD student at the Royal College of Art, London